The cull…

July 16, 2016

Yet another clear-out of several boxes of books!

It seems to be getting easier. Reference books are being culled ruthlessly; many are seriously out-of-date and I’d have replaced them long ago in the paper days; now they can go as I know where to find the information I want online. There’s still some sentimental attachment to seeing a familiar tome on the shelves, but it’s waning.

I’ve realised, too, I can part with a lot of the travel guides I’ve accumulated over the years; maps I still keep, as I know better than to rely totally on satnav, and, although I find the maps app on my phone helpful, it’s not often it can give you a big enough and clear enough overview of an unfamiliar town or city to enable you to avoid mistakes or long-cuts… But I can do so much of the homework I need to do before I set off, and travel lighter.

I’m able to be rather more ruthless with novels, too. Anything pre-1923 is available to download and read, so I only keep my best copies of favourite novels; the rest, particularly if I’m unsure whether I’ll read them again, can go. I’ve become a lot clearer about what I like and don’t like as I’ve grown older, which means I can decide pretty definitely whether I’m ever going to allocate more eyeball-time to re-reading a certain book or not. If not, off you go!

There was a time when having a library meant having books, and having them on display, as a way, I suppose, of reminding myself and others, that I’d read a particular book. Now my library is much more a ‘these I have loved’ project, and is therefore shrinking. I’m aiming for the day – haven’t reached it yet! – when I will go through my entire collection and select, deliberately, only those I definitely intend to keep, and will abandon the rest…

What is still difficult is to avoid buying more books. I have cut the number down that I buy each year from about seventy or so to about half this, but that’s not good enough. I don’t have enormous wish-lists like I used to; I feel that I’ve probably read ‘enough’ about certain subjects and so don’t need to buy the latest new book; I can avoid local bookshops and second-hand shops and even charity shops, but it’s harder when I’m away and am lured into thinking, ‘well, there could be something really exciting in here..’. Or when I pass through France and have to look to see if there’s anything that I know I’ll never come across back home.

Without being morbid, I do admit to myself that I have a limited amount of time left, and that there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in old certainties, which means re-reading those books that I’ve known and loved before, the old favourites, in the sure knowledge that I’m not going to be disappointed.

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